Jason Cunningham is The Underdog Who Never Lost Hope. Now he finds himself in an unfamiliar position, writes Matt Bozeat
WHAT happened to Jason Cunningham? Three losses in four fights in a 14-month spell had the trade expecting the Doncaster southpaw to wind down his career as a tough opponent. He went into a challenge for Gamal Yafai’s European super-bantamweight title at three weeks’ notice last March as a massive outsider, but as it turned out, it was the right fight for Cunningham. He won on points and at 32 years old, he is now looking to add an alphabet belt to a CV that shows he’s won every other major honor, including Commonwealth titles at three weights. On Saturday, Cunningham makes the second defense of his European belt in Telford, against Terry Le Couviour.
BT Sport televise.
“Super-bantamweight has always been my division,” said Cunningham, explaining his Rocky story to Boxing News. “But I won the Commonwealth featherweight title at short notice [against Ben Jones in April, 2017] and stayed there. When you have a small hall promoter, you have to go where the opportunities are and the opportunities were at featherweight.”
Cunningham, trained by Ray Doyle and Stefy Bull, says the gap between 122lbs and 126lbs is ‘massive’.
“I’m huge for super-bantamweight, but not quite big enough for featherweight against lads who are coming down. I have found my natural weight now and I have years and years of experience as well.”
That showed when he defended his title against British and Commonwealth champion Brad Foster (14-0-2) last October.
“I showed I can box when I need to and fight when I need to,” said Cunningham, who has his eighth title fight at British level and above this weekend.
Le Couviour is a 27-year-old from France has won all 16 fights (two early) in a nine-year pro career. He looks to be a volume puncher. Footage of his fights on YouTube shows him getting his hands up, walking into a range and then unloading hooks down and up.
The highlight of his pro career so far was a majority 12-round points win over Iuliano Gallo (9-2) for the vacant EU belt in the Italian’s home town in May, 2019.
Two judges had Le Couvior a point up after he finished strongly and the other had them level.
That was his first – and only time – past eight rounds.
Le Couviour hasn’t boxed since he stopped Georgian journeyman Edgari Sarkisiani (8-12-2) in six rounds in December, 2020, while Cunningham had the two best wins of his 30-6 career last year.
He dropped Yafai (18-1) three times and then outpointed Foster. BT Sport had Foster up at the final bell, but three judges had the Yorkshireman winning 115-114, 114-113 and 116-112.
Had Foster not been docked a point in the eighth for low blows, the fight would have been a majority draw.
Queensberry Promotions snapped up Cunningham and he had the BT Sport cameras in the gym filming him when Boxing News rang him a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s all about me for a change,” said Cunningham, who has a tattoo on his chest that reads: “The Underdog Who Never Lost Hope.’
The fact is, Cunningham, ABA light-flyweight champion in 2011, has been a good fighter for years. The six losses on his record have come against top opposition and often a short notice or at the wrong weight.
Kal Yafai dominated him and Reece Bellotti stopped him, but in his other losses, Cunningham had his moments. He shook Michael Conlan briefly before losing on points in December, 2018.
In between the losses, Cunningham has won belts from 112lbs all the way up to 126lbs, including Commonwealth honors at 118lbs, 122lbs and 126lbs.
Le Couviour, who turned pro at 18 after winning 25 of his 30 amateur boots, looks to be predominantly a front-foot fighter.
“He looks quite aggressive,” said Cunningham of a challenger who’s around two inches shorter at 5ft 7ins.
“I believe I can break him down late on.”
Le Couvior claims to have inside knowledge of the champion, telling Boxing News he has worked “with an English coach who knows Cunningham” without saying any more.
He will presumably have been told Cunningham is big and strong at 122lbs, can box on the back foot or fight on the inside and has been susceptible to body shots.
Cunningham is also seasoned, unbeaten at 122lbs and has momentum and belief. “I’ve always believed in myself,” Cunningham said. “When I turned pro, I always thought: ‘European title minimum’ and I don’t think many people believed me. How far can I go now? I believe I’m good enough to get to the next level.”
We can’t see Le Couvior derailing those ambitions. The Frenchman will surely look to get inside Cunningham’s long arms and let his hands go, but Cunningham will have the answers and can stop him late.
There was disappointment for Liverpool puncher Andrew Cain (8-0) when Liam Davies was ruled out of their super-bantamweight 10 rounder with a shoulder injury.
Cain saw a win over the 11-0 ticket seller as a “break out” fight for him.
The 25-year-old from the Everton Red Triangle gym is still on the show, boxing Pablo Ariel Gomez (15-10-2) over 10.
The Gomez record shows a split points win over a 44-year-old version of two-weight belt-holder Omar Andres Narvaez (49-3-2) in December, 2019.
Gomez has the look of a fighter who’s learned the business the hard way. A pro at 21, he won only four of his first 15 (two draws), but stuck at it and is 11-1 in his last 12. Against Narvaez, he made himself hard to hit and when he did take a punch, he fired back with three or four.
He’s been stopped twice, but may not see Cain’s punches coming. Cain, who has six wins inside three rounds, whips in hard shots from his waist and could get the stoppage in the second half.
Stoke middleweight Nathan Heaney (14-0) looks set for another fun fight. He meets Argentine southpaw Diego Ramirez (24-6-1) over 10. Ramirez is known to British fans for upsetting Bradley Skeete in two rounds in Brentwood in December, 2018. Boxing around 154lbs, Ramirez is 3-3-1 in his last seven, has been the full 10 rounds in his last five, while Heaney has stopped his last three.
Heaney gets his wins by breaking his opponents down and dropping them with body shots, but Ramirez has only been stopped once and Heaney may have to go the distance to get the win.
The Verdict Simply must win for Cunningham at this stage.
TAKE YOUR PICK
THE live broadcast of Cunningham-Le Couviour begins at 7pm on Saturday night on BT Sport 1, meaning it occurs with the Benn-Van Heerden event on DAZN and the Boxxer series on Sky Sports Action. Which is far from ideal.